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Wazihub, Microsoft, Zindi call on data scientists

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Wazihub and Microsoft, in collaboration with Zindi, have partnered on a competition for data scientists to build machine learning models that predict soil moisture that can help farmers efficiently manage water usage.

The objective is to create a machine learning model capable of predicting soil humidity for an agricultural plot, which will allow farmers to prepare their irrigation schedules optimally and efficiently.

Wazihub (Swahili for open hub) is an innovation project for Africa, aiming to create an open hub that enables Africans to address local service needs through the co-design and development of cutting-edge, African-grade solutions that leverage the Internet of things (IOT).

The Zindi online platform was launched last year, hosting competitions and a community of mostly African data scientists that apply machine learning and AI techniques to solve Africa's toughest challenges.

As the competition host, Waziup, a European Union-Africa project developing IOT technologies in Africa, will have full unrestricted rights to the top five machine learning models after the competition. Zindi will also have full rights to the solutions.

“We have created an IOT ecosystem across 20 countries in Africa, with a vision to solve local problems using local resources and skills, to keep the solution cost-effective,” says Waziup MD Abdur Rahim.

Microsoft senior director of software partnerships Chris Lwanga notes the company believes in empowering every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more.

“With over 60% of Africa’s population tied to the agri value chain, coupled with the challenges climate change is bringing to farmers, we thought this project’s outcome (powered by Microsoft Azure) can have a significant impact on farmers across Africa and beyond.”

Zindi CEO Celina Lee says Zindi hosts a community of over 4 000 data scientists dedicated to solving Africa’s toughest business and social challenges through machine learning and artificial intelligence.

“In the face of climate change and food insecurity across the globe, we are thrilled to launch this partnership with Wazihub and Microsoft, and make strides to more efficient use of our natural resources and local talent.”

Submissions can be made until 20 October. Data scientists from across Africa are invited to enter and stand a chance to win cash and prizes to the value of $8 000 (R118 000).

Data scientists can enter the competition on the Zindi platform. For more information, contact

Humble beginnings

Five years ago, the data scientist job title was relatively new in SA, but that has since changed as the need for data scientists within the business and research fields grows exponentially.

SA is under immense pressure to address this skills gap. Globally, the shortfall for data scientists is projected to be between five million and 10 million.

Data scientists contribute a wide range of skills to an organisation, with the main three being business operational skills, technical and statistical skills, with innovative use of technology playing a key role in all three.

Last year, the South African government committed to training one million young people between 2019 and 2030, to become data scientists.

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